The Last Chronicle of Barset, by Anthony Trollope

Chapter LII

Why Don’t You have an ‘It’ for Yourself?

Of course it came to pass that Lily Dale and Emily Dunstable were soon very intimate, and that they saw each other every day. Indeed, before long they would have been living together in the same house had it not been that the squire had felt reluctant to abandon the independence of his own lodgings. When Mrs Thorne had pressed her invitation for the second, and then for the third time, asking them both to come to her large house, he had begged his niece to go and leave him alone. ‘You need not regard me,’ he had said, speaking not with the whining voice of complaint, but with that thin tinge of melancholy which was usual to him. ‘I am so much alone down in Allington, that you need not mind leaving me.’ but Lily would not go on those terms, and therefore they still lived together in the lodgings. Nevertheless Lily was every day at Mrs Thorne’s house, and thus a great intimacy grew up between the girls. Emily Dunstable had neither brother nor sister, and Lily’s nearest male relative in her own degree was now Miss Dunstable’s betrothed husband. It was natural therefore that they should at any rate try to like each other. It afterwards came to pass that Lily did go to Mrs Thorne’s house, and she stayed there for a while; but when that occurred the squire had gone back to Allington.

Among other generous kindnesses Mrs Thorne insisted that Bernard should hire a horse for his cousin Lily. Emily Dunstable rode daily, and of course Captain Dale rode with her; — and now Lily joined the party. Almost before she knew what was being done she found herself provided with hat and habit and horse and whip. It was a way with Mrs Thorne that they who came within the influence of her immediate sphere should be made to feel that the comforts and luxuries arising from her wealth belonged to a common stock, and were the joint property of them all. Things were not offered and taken and talked about, but they made their appearance, and were used as a matter of course. If you go to stay at a gentleman’s house you understand that, as a matter of course, you will be provided with meat and drink. Some hosts furnish you also with cigars. A small number give you stabling and forage for you horse; and a very select few mount you on hunting days, and send you out with a groom and a second horse. Mrs Thorne went beyond all others in this open-handed hospitality. She had enormous wealth at her command, and had but few of those all-absorbing drains upon her wealth which in this country make so many rich men poor. She had no family property — no place to keep up in which she did not live. She had no retainers to be maintained because they were retainers. She had neither sons nor daughters. Consequently she was able to be lavish in her generosity; and as her heart was very lavish, she would have given her friends gold to eat had gold been good for eating. Indeed there was no measure in her giving — unless when the idea came upon her that the recipient of her favours was trading on them. Then she could hold her hand very stoutly.

Lily Dale had not liked the idea of being fitted out thus expensively. A box at the opera was all very well, as it was not procured especially for her. And tickets for other theatres did not seem to come unnaturally for a night or two. But her spirit had militated against the hat and the habit and the horse. The whip was a little present from Emily Dunstable, and that of course was accepted with a good grace. Then there came the horse — as though from the heavens; there seemed to be ten horses, twenty horses, if anybody needed them. All these things seemed to flow naturally into Mrs Thorne’s establishment, like air through the windows. It was very pleasant, but Lily hesitated when she was told that a habit was to be given to her. ‘My dear old aunt insists,’ said Emily Dunstable. ‘Nobody ever thinks of refusing anything from her. If you only knew what some people will take, and some people will even ask, who have nothing to do with her at all!’ ‘But I have nothing to do with her — in that way I mean,’ said Lily. ‘Oh, yes, you have,’ said Emily. ‘You and Bernard are as good as brother and sister, and Bernard and I are as good as man and wife, and my aunt and I are as good as mother and daughter. So you see, in a sort of way you are a child of the house.’ So Lily accepted the habit; but made a stand at the hat, and paid for that out of her own pocket. When the squire had seen Lily on horseback he asked her questions about it. ‘It was a hired horse, I suppose?’ he said. ‘I think it came direct from heaven,’ said Lily. ‘What do you mean, Lily?’ said the squire angrily. ‘I mean that when people are so rich and good-natured as Mrs Thorne it is not good inquiring where things come from. All that I know is that the horses come out of Potts’ livery-stable. They talk of Potts as if he were a good-natured man who provides horses for the world without troubling anybody.’ Then the squire spoke to Bernard about it, saying that he would insist on defraying his niece’s expenses. But Bernard swore that he should give his uncle no assistance. ‘I would not speak to her about such a thing for all the world,’ said Bernard. ‘Then I shall,’ said the squire.

In those days Lily thought much of Johnny Eames — gave to him perhaps more of that thought which leads to love than she had ever given him before. She still heard the Crawley question discussed every day. Mrs Thorne, as we all know, was at this time a Barsetshire personage, and was of course interested in Barsetshire subjects; and she was specially anxious in the matter, having strong hopes with reference to the marriage of Major Grantly and Grace, and strong hopes also that Grace’s father might escape the fangs of justice. The Crawley case was constantly in Lily’s ears, and as constantly she heard high praise awarded to Johnny for his kindness in going after the Arabins. ‘He must be a fine young fellow,’ said Mrs Thorne, ‘and we’ll have him down at Chaldicotes some day. Old Lord De Guest found him out and made a friend of him, and old Lord De Guest was no fool.’ Lilly was not altogether free from a suspicion that Mrs Thorne knew the story of Johnny’s love and was trying to serve Johnny — as other people had tried to do, very ineffectually. When this suspicion came upon her she would shut her heart against her lover’s praises, and swear that she would stand by those two letters which she had written in her book at home. But the suspicion would not always be there, and there did come upon her a conviction that her lover was more esteemed among men and women than she had been accustomed to believe. Her cousin, Bernard Dale, who certainly was regarded in the world as somebody, spoke of him as an equal; where in former days Bernard had always regarded Johnny Eames as standing low in the world’s regards. Then Lily, when alone, would remember a certain comparison which she once made between Adolphus Crosbie and John Eames, when neither of the men had as yet pleaded their cause to her, and which had been very much in favour of the former. She had then declared that Johnny was a ‘mere clerk’. She had a higher opinion of him now — a much higher opinion, even though he could never be more to her than a friend.

In these days Lily’s new ally, Emily Dunstable, seemed to Lily to be so happy! There was in Emily a complete realisation of that idea of ante-nuptial blessedness, of which Lily had often thought so much. Whatever Emily did she did for Bernard; and, to give Captain Dale his due, he received all the sweets which were showered upon him with becoming signs of gratitude. I suppose it is always the case at such times that the girl has the best of it, and on this occasion Emily Dunstable certainly made the most of her happiness. ‘I do envy you,’ Lily said one day. The acknowledgement seemed to have been extorted from her involuntarily. She did not laugh as she spoke, or follow up what she had said with other words intended to take away the joke of what she had uttered — had it been a joke; but she sat silent, looking at the girl who was rearranging flowers which Bernard had brought to her.

‘I can’t give him up to you, you know,’ said Emily.

‘I don’t envy you him, but “it”,’ said Lily.

‘Then go and get an “it” for yourself. Why don’t you have an “it” for yourself? You can have an “it” tomorrow, if you like — or two or three, if all that I hear is true.’

‘No I can’t,’ said Lily. ‘Things have gone wrong with me. Don’t ask me anything more about it. Pray don’t. I shan’t speak of it if you do.’

‘Of course I will not if you tell me I must not.’

‘I do tell you so. I have been a fool to say anything about it. However, I have got over my envy now, and am ready to go out with your aunt. Here she is.’

‘Things have gone wrong with me.’ She repeated the same words to herself over and over again. With all the efforts which she had made she could not quite reconcile herself to the two letters which she had written in the book. This coming up to London, and riding in the Park, and going to the theatres, seemed to unsettle her. At home she had schooled herself down into quiescence, and made herself think that she believed that she was satisfied with the prospects of her life. But now she was all astray again, doubting about herself, hankering after something over and beyond that which seemed to be allotted to her — but, nevertheless, assuring herself that she never would accept of anything else.

I must not, if I can help it, let the reader suppose that she was softening her heart to John Eames because John Eames was spoken well of in the world. But with all of us, in the opinion which we form of those around us, we take unconsciously the opinion of others. A woman is handsome because the world says so. Music is charming to us because it charms others. We drink our wines with other men’s palates, and look at our pictures with other men’s eyes. When Lily heard John Eames praised by all around her, it could not be but that she should praise him too — not out loud, as others did, but in the silence of her heart. And then his constancy to her had been so perfect! If that other one had never come! If it could be that she might begin again, and that she might be spared that episode in her life which had brought him and her together!

‘When is Mr Eames going to be back?’ Mrs Thorne said at dinner one day. On this occasion the squire was dining at Mrs Thorne’s house; and there were three or four others there — among them a Mr Harold Smith, who was in Parliament, and his wife, and John Eames’s especial friend, Sir Raffle Buffle. The question was addressed to the squire, but the squire was slow to answer, and it was taken up by Sir Raffle Buffle.

‘He’ll be back on the 15th,’ said the knight, ‘unless he means to play truant. I hope he won’t do that, as his absence has been a terrible inconvenience to me.’ Then Sir Raffle explained that John Eames was his private secretary, and that Johnny’s journey to the Continent had been made with, and could not have been made without, his sanction. ‘When I came to hear of the story, of course I told him that he must go. “Eames,” I said, “take the advice of a man who knows the world. Circumstanced as you are, your are bound to go.” And he went.’

‘Upon my word that was very good-natured of you,’ said Mrs Thorne.

‘I never keep a fellow to his desk who has really go important business elsewhere,’ said Sir Raffle. ‘The country, I say, can afford to do as much as that for her servants. But then I like to know that the business is business. One doesn’t choose to be humbugged.’

‘I daresay you are humbugged, as you call it, very often,’ said Harold Smith.

‘Perhaps so; perhaps I am; perhaps that is the opinion which they have of me at the Treasury. But you were hardly long enough there, Smith, to have learned much about it, I should say.’

‘I don’t suppose I should have known much about it, as you call it, if I had stayed till Doomsday.’

‘I daresay not; I daresay not. Men who begin as late as you did never know what official life really means. Now I’ve been at it all my life, and I think I do understand it.’

‘It’s not a profession I should like unless where it’s joined with politics,’ said Harold Smith.

‘But then it’s apt to be so short,’ said Sir Raffle Buffle. Now it had once happened in the life of Mr Harold Smith that he had been in a Ministry, but, unfortunately, that Ministry had gone out almost within a week of the time of Mr Smith’s adhesion. Sir Raffle and Mr Smith had known each other for many years, and were accustomed to make civil little speeches to each other in society.

‘I’d sooner be a horse in a mill than have to go to an office every day,’ said Mrs Smith, coming to her husband’s assistance. ‘You, Sir Raffle, have kept yourself fresh and pleasant through it all; but who besides you ever did?’

‘I hope I am fresh,’ said Sir Raffle; ‘and as for pleasantness, I will leave that for you to determine.’

‘There can be but one opinion,’ said Mrs Thorne.

The conversation had strayed away from John Eames, and Lily was disappointed. It was a pleasure to her when people talked of him in her hearing, and as a question or two had been asked about him, making him the hero of the moment, it seemed to her that he was being robbed of his due when the little amenities between Mr and Mrs Harold Smith and Sir Raffle Buffle banished his name from the circle. Nothing more, however, was said of him at dinner, and I fear that he would have been altogether forgotten throughout the evening, had not Lily Dale referred — not to him, which she could not possibly have been induced to do — but to the subject of his journey. ‘I wonder whether poor Mr Crawley will be found guilty?’ She said to Sir Raffle upon in the drawing-room.

‘I am afraid he will; I am afraid he will,’ said Sir Raffle; ‘and I fear, my dear Miss Dale, that I must go further than that. I fear I must express an opinion that he is guilty.’

‘Nothing will ever make me think so,’ said Lily.

‘Ladies are always tender-hearted,’ said Sir Raffle, ‘and especially young ladies — and pretty young ladies. I do not wonder that such should be your opinion. But you see, Miss Dale, a man of business has to look at these things in a business light. What I want to know is, where did he get that cheque? He is bound to be explicit in answering that before anybody can acquit him.’

‘That is just what Mr Eames has gone abroad to learn.’

‘It is very well for Eames to go abroad — though, upon my word, I don’t know whether I should not have given him different advice if I had known how much I was to be tormented by his absence. The thing couldn’t have happened at a more unfortunate time; — the Ministry going out and everything. But, as I was saying, it is all very well for him to do what he can. He is related to them, and is bound to save the honour of his relations if it be possible. I like him for going. I always liked him. As I said to my friend De Guest, “That young man will make his way.” And I rather fancy that the chance word which I spoke then to my valued old friend was not thrown away in Eames’s favour. But, my dear Miss Dale, where did Mr Crawley get that cheque? That’s what I want to know. If you can tell me that, then I can tell you whether or no he will be acquitted.’

Lily did not feel a strong prepossession in favour of Sir Raffle, in spite of his praise of John Eames. The harsh voice of the man annoyed her, and his egotism offended her. When, much later in the evening, his character came on for discussion between herself and Mrs Thorne and Emily Dunstable, she had not a word to say in his favour. But still she had been pleased to meet him, because he was the man with whom Johnny’s life was most specially concerned. I think that a portion of her dislike to him arose from the fact that in continuing the conversation he did not revert to his private secretary, but preferred to regale her with stories of his own doings in wonderful cases which had partaken of interest similar to that which now attached itself to Mr Crawley’s case. He had known a man who had stolen a hundred pounds, and had never been found out; and another man who had been arrested for stealing two-and-sixpence which was found afterwards sticking to a bit of butter at the bottom of a plate. Mrs Thorne had heard all this, and had answered him, ‘Dear me, Sir Raffle,’ she had said, ‘what a great many thieves you have had amongst your acquaintance!’ This had rather disconcerted him, and then there had been no more talking about Mr Crawley.

It had been arranged on this morning that Mr Dale should return to Allington and leave Lily with Mrs Thorne. Some special need of his presence at home, real or assumed, had arisen, and he had declared that he must shorten his stay in London by about half the intended period. The need would not have been so pressing, probably, had he not felt that Lily would be more comfortable with Mrs Thorne than in his lodgings in Sackville Street. Lily had at first declared that she would return with him, but everybody had protested against this. Emily Dunstable had protested against it very stoutly; Mrs Dale herself had protested against it by letter; and Mrs Thorne’s protest had been quite imperious in its nature. ‘Indeed,’ my dear, you’ll do nothing of the kind. I’m sure your mother wouldn’t wish it. I look upon it as quite essential that you and Emily should learn to know each other.’ ‘But we do know each other; don’t we, Emily?’ said Lily. ‘Not quite well yet,’ said Emily. Then Lily had laughed, and so the matter was settled. And now, on this present occasion, Mr Dale was at Mrs Thorne’s house for the last time. His conscience had been perplexed about Lily’s horse, and if anything was to be said it must be said now. The subject was very disagreeable to him, and he was angry with Bernard because Bernard had declined to manage it for him after his own fashion. But he had told himself so often that anything was better than a pecuniary obligation, that he was determined to speak his mind to Mrs Thorne, and to beg her to allow him to have his way. So he waited till the Harold Smiths were gone, and Sir Raffle Buffle, and then, when Lily was apart with Emily — for Bernard Dale had left them — he found himself at last alone with Mrs Thorne.

‘I can’t be too much obliged to you,’ he said, ‘for your kindness to my girl.’

‘Oh, laws, that’s nothing,’ said Mrs Thorne. ‘We look on her as one of us now.’

‘I’m sure she is grateful — very grateful; and so am I. She and Bernard have been brought up so much together that it is very desirable that she should not be unknown to Bernard’s wife.’

‘Exactly — that’s just what I mean. Blood’s thicker than water; isn’t it? Emily’s child, if she has one, will be Lily’s cousin.’

‘Her first-cousin once removed,’ said the squire, who was accurate in these matters. Then he drew himself up in his seat and compressed his lips together, and prepared himself for his task. It was very disagreeable. Nothing, he thought, could be more disagreeable. ‘I have a little thing to speak about,’ he said at last, ‘which I hope will not offend you.’

‘About Lily?’

‘Yes; about Lily.’

‘I’m not very easily offended, and I don’t know how I could possibly be offended about her.’

‘I’m an old-fashioned man, Mrs Thorne, and don’t know much about the ways of the world. I have always been down in the country, and maybe I have prejudices. You won’t refuse to humour one of them, I hope?’

‘You’re beginning to frighten me, Mr Dale; what is it?’

‘About Lily’s horse.’

‘Lily’s horse! What about her horse? I hope he’s not vicious?’

‘She is riding every day with your niece,’ said the squire, thinking it best to stick to his own point.

‘It will do her all the good in the world,’ said Mrs Thorne.

‘Very likely. I don’t doubt it. I do not in the least disapprove her riding. But —’

‘But what, Mr Dale?’

‘I should be much obliged if I might be allowed to pay the livery-stable keeper’s bill.’

‘Oh, laws a’mercy.’

‘I daresay it may sound odd, but as I have a fancy about it, I’m sure you’ll gratify me.’

‘Of course I will. I’ll remember it. I’ll make it all right with Bernard. Bernard and I have no end of accounts — or shall have before long — and we’ll make an item of it. Then you can arrange with Bernard afterwards.’

Mr Dale as he got up to go away felt that he was beaten, but he did not know how to carry the battle any further on that occasion. He could not take out his purse and put down the cost of the horse on the table. ‘I will then speak to my nephew about it,’ he said, very gravely, as he went away. And he did speak to his nephew about it, and even wrote to him more than once. But it was all to no purpose. Mr Potts could not be induced to give a separate bill, and — so said Bernard — swore at last that he would furnish no account to anybody for horses that went to Mrs Thorne’s door except to Mrs Thorne herself.

That night Lily took leave of her uncle and remained at Mrs Thorne’s house. As things were now arranged she would, no doubt, be in London when John Eames returned. If he should find her in town — and she told herself that is she was in town he certainly would find her — he would, doubtless, repeat to her the offer he had so often made before. She never ventured to tell herself that she doubted as to the answer to be made to him. The two letters were written in the book, and must remain there. But she felt that she would have had more courage for persistency down at Allington than she would be able to summon to her assistance up in London. She knew she would be weak, should she be found by him alone in Mrs Thorne’s drawing-room. It would be better for her to make some excuse and go home. She was resolved that she would not become his wife. She could not extricate herself from the dominion of a feeling which she believed to be love for another man. She had given a solemn promise both to her mother and to John Eames that she would not marry that other man; but in doing so she had made a solemn promise to herself that she would not marry John Eames. She had sworn it and would keep her oath. And yet she regretted it! In writing home to her mother the next day, she told Mrs Dale that all the world was speaking well of John Eames — that John had won for himself a reputation of his own, and was known far and wide to be a noble fellow. She could not keep herself from praising John Eames, though she knew that such praise might, and would, be used against her at some future time. ‘Though I cannot love him I will give him his due,’ she said to herself.

‘I wish you would make up your mind to have an “it” for yourself,’ Emily Dunstable said to her again that night; ‘a nice “it”, so that I could make a friend, perhaps a brother, of him.’

‘I shall never have an “it” if I live to be a hundred,’ said Lily Dale.

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Last updated Tuesday, March 4, 2014 at 18:43